Materials

Self-adhesive

Self-adhesive tags are the most cost effective and easy to implement tracking solution. Highly durable and suited to a wide range of conditions, self-adhesive tags are the best choice for most business applications. They are constructed from many types of materials including metal, polyester, paper and vinyl. Paper is the cheapest, but it can be easily damaged and removed and are best saved where marking isn't critical - these are not recommended for permanent marking.

One of the most expensive materials is foil or anodised aluminium. Having been crafted from aluminium, these labels are weather resistant and durable, making them suitable for a wide range of uses indoor and outside. The use of foil don't show if tampering has happened and once removed, can be easily repositioned and placed on swapped items.

Polyester is also used frequently in a business environment and are best used outdoors, where they will be protected from the elements of nature as the material is inorganic. After the printing process, the polyester is covered with a thin laminate film that protects the printing from scuffs, smudges, and other damage that can make the print unreadable however, again these can be readily pulled off in one piece and transferred to items of lesser value. Types of Polyester can have voiding tamper-evident properties, which can help to protect against insurance swap-outs. If someone tries to tamper or remove, a warning message will appear on the label itself or the words VOID appear; these are usually used on openings or corners of casings.

Vinyl

Vinyl are most probably the best for tamper protection, since they are hard to remove without leaving traces of damage and are almost impossible to be re-used. Also the flexibility of the label itself allows it to be used on difficult surfaces that have a texture or grainy finish and combined with a strong adhesive, is proving to be the best type of material for computers and laptops.

When ordering self-adhesive tags, a company needs to decide on what kind of identifying information needs to be pre=printed. Usually, manufacturers provide sequential numbers, a barcode and some text to help get the equipment back to the owner or business. Once it has been applied on the piece of equipment or asset, it can be quickly scanned with a barcode scanner and traced or imported into a company's database for easy reconcilliation in auditing.

Metal - Mild Steel & Aluminium

Companies may also choose to use metal tags to protect their valuables. While they may cost more than a sticker, they are much more durable. Strong, thick, and virtually unbreakable, they provide an extra level of security for protecting expensive items. These are frequently used to keep track of large pieces of equipment like tools and machinery or objects that are stored outdoors or in harsh elements, however the trade-off is that they can be removed and replaced on other items without too much trouble.

RFID tags

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags represent the ultimate in protection. These are equipped with a tiny transponder that sends out a radio signal when activated. Using a GPS system or similar tracking device, this can be used to pin-point the exact position on the globe a particular item. While expensive, RFID is an invaluable tool for keeping track of valuable or extremely sensitive assets.

Tag Buying Advice

Always make sure that you are buying a quality material. Some suppliers use very cheap materials that potentially can fall off or can get defaced after a short period of time. Cheap may cost you money in the long term, especially if you have to re-tag existing equipment.

Preparation of the surface is very important. Contamination of the surface, such as oil, grease, dust and other contaminates can adversely affect adhesion. If you are applying to low-surface energy surfaces make sure that they work, prior to purchasing!

Databases and software may require a scanner to enter data quickly and without error. Ask the manufacturer if they can supply a suitable scanner and if they have any software for you to use or test. Some professional software can cost thousands of pounds, where a text file or Microsoft Excel spreadsheet would suffice and is free.